JIS News

The Ministry of Labour and Social Security has allocated a grant of $15 million to provide assistance to persons with disabilities, State Minister, Andrew Gallimore has announced.
Making his contribution to the 2008/09 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives yesterday (July 2), Mr. Gallimore said $10 million of the sum would be used to assist individuals with income enablement projects, while the remaining $5 million would go towards providing adaptive aids for these persons.
This allocation will be complemented by a $100 million loan facility for persons with disabilities, announced by Industry, Investment and Commerce Minister, Karl Samuda, in April.
In addition, Mr. Gallimore pointed out that the Disabilities Act is still being drafted, and advised that when completed and passed, it would address issues affecting persons with disabilities. These include access to buildings, transportation, education, health and employment, among other matters.
The State Minister also underscored the country’s responsibility in ensuring that persons with disabilities become fully integrated into society.
“The barriers that are there blocking persons with disabilities have to be removed. I have spoken to so many persons with disabilities, who tell me that they have sent resumes out for jobs, that they have gone to a first and a second interview, and they have gotten to the point of going for that final interview, with the ultimate decision maker in the organization. And low and behold, when that person finds out that they have a disability, that is the end of the process,” he said.
“We cannot move to first world status, treating persons with disabilities in our country that way. (To this end) we (government) are going to be moving forward to improve, in significant ways, the quality of life for persons with disabilities,” Mr. Gallimore stressed.
The State Minister said the Ministries of Labour and Social Security, and Education have spent “a significant amount of money” caring for and training persons with disabilities, and lamented the challenges which these individuals encounter in gaining employment.
He advised the lower House that the Ministry has been in touch with Permanent Secretaries, inviting them to recommit to the convention of giving preference of up to five per cent of the staff complement in their ministries to persons with disabilities. He has also invited the private sector to give consideration to employing the disabled.
“I also ask that the private sector become more involved in giving persons with disabilities an opportunity to earn as we earn. Think of somebody who has the capacity to work, but is just not given the chance. That is how we currently treat persons with disabilities. It has to change,” Mr. Gallimore declared.
In the same vein, the State Minister announced that a toll free number – 1-888-ENABLED (1-888-362-2533) – is scheduled be launched at the National Council for Persons with Disabilities during the first week of August. This number, he informed, would be linked to a computer database, as part of the Ministry’s plan to commence proper registration of all Jamaicans with disabilities.
“This line is to allow persons with disabilities, who are experiencing greater than normal hardship, to bring their case to the Ministry through the National Council for Persons with Disabilities. This toll free line is also to allow all persons with disabilities, who have taken the time to properly qualify themselves to be a member in the workforce, to highlight themselves to the Council for Persons with Disabilities,” the State Minister explained.
He also underscored the need for Jamaicans to dispel all of the prevailing “hang ups” and misinformation about the limitations of the disabled, “that we impose upon them that they do not impose on themselves.”